Friday, April 19, 2024
Friday, April 19, 2024

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He’s In: Kevin Nicholson Will Run for Governor


Kevin Nicholson is 100% in. The announcement is expected “in days.”

Former Marine Kevin Nicholson will announce a run for Wisconsin governor in days, Wisconsin Right Now has learned from a well-placed source.

The source told us the decision has been made: Kevin Nicholson is 100% in. The announcement is expected “in days,” the source said.

Kevin Nicholson’s entry into the race will set up what could be a bruising three-way Republican primary with former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and digital marketer Jonathan Wichmann (former Gov. Tommy Thompson is also flirting with a run, but it’s unclear whether he’s actually serious about it).

Kevin Nicholson, a combat veteran who runs No Better Friend Corp., is expected to run as an anti-establishment outsider, pushing a host of conservative issues, such as improving public safety and education. We’ve also learned from a source that Nicholson would not exit the race even if a Republican Party of Wisconsin endorsement went to Kleefisch and would leave the ultimate decision in the race to primary voters.

Kevin Nicholson’s Twitter page was silent on the decision, but he did write on January 16, 2022, “Our society is a mess and the political class doesn’t have the capacity to fix it. It’s time to turn the page and move forward.”

“It was great to see friends and new faces in Columbia County and to speak with the @WIFRW in Fond du Lac yesterday. Wisconsinites are rightly and deeply concerned about the future of our state and nation,” Nicholson wrote on January 16, 2022, referring to the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women. He also shared a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has also written about a host of state issues, such as violent crime and election integrity, in recent tweets.

In short, he’s sounding like a candidate – and one who is not afraid to run against the GOP “establishment.” Our source says his announcement is imminent, and the decision has been made to run.

Nicholson made it clear previously that he was interested in either running for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s seat if Johnson didn’t run or for governor, and he was widely believed to prefer a Senate run; however, Johnson then announced he was running again. In fact, on January 16, Nicholson’s website still prominently stated, “Help Kevin take back Washington.”

No Better Friend’s platform focuses on “defending life. Support law enforcement. Honor those who have served. Fight critical race theory. Ensure free and fair elections. Protect and improve education.” The group has held well-attended events throughout the state on things like CRT and public safety, as well as the Iranian hostage crisis. Its website promises to “move the conservative movement forward.” The group launched a $1.5 million ad campaign in September.

Nicholson still faces some resentment in the Republican base over his bruising but ultimately unsuccessful primary with Leah Vukmir to take on U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Some attribute that primary, forcing Vukmir to spend down her money, with Baldwin’s victory, but others believe she lost because she wasn’t a strong general election candidate, and outside funders didn’t think she could win.

Some observers fear a similar outcome if a bloody Republican primary results for governor, whereby the candidates spend down their coffers. At the same time, it’s widely expected that major outside money will come into the state to boost the eventual Republican nominee because Wisconsin is a battleground state, and Donald Trump, if he runs for president in 2024, would like a strong Republican governor to help him carry this state. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is seen as vulnerable because of his lockdown measures, inept handling of unemployment benefits, and weak response to the Kenosha riots, among other issues.

Nicholson’s potential candidacy, Thompson’s comments, and Trump’s unsuccessful pushing of Sean Duffy to run before (Duffy is not) indicate that Kleefisch has not fully sealed the deal with primary voters as the presumptive frontrunner, some observers say.

In the Vukmir race, Vukmir had the major political endorsements by and large and Nicholson ran as an outsider. He was boosted by third-party groups backed in particular by Richard Uihlein, an Illinois businessman. “Uihlein-backed third-party groups bombarded the state for months with nearly $11 million worth of ads to support Nicholson and attack Vukmir,” the Journal Sentinel reported at the time.

According to the Journal Sentinel, Nicholson’s parents and brother donated to Baldwin’s campaign and Nicholson was “a former president of the College Democrats of America” who “supported abortion rights during a speech at the 2000 Democratic Convention.” This also caused controversy among Republicans during the Vukmir race and is certain to come up again, although Nicholson’s group supports pro-life issues, including helping groups that offer pregnancy resources to help women choose life. Nicholson has said that he became more conservative as he aged, had a family, and served in combat through the U.S. military.

Certainly, an anti-establishment sentiment has ignited throughout the state through parents’ groups angry about education issues and dislike over COVID-19 measures. The candidates will be competing to tap into that.

Although these issues are likely to arise anew in a gubernatorial primary, if he gets out of the primary, they could also arguably give Nicholson a crossover appeal argument that would confuse the Democratic governor’s playbook and could help the Republican win a general election. He’s certain to make that argument to Republican primary voters, but he’s going to be facing a former lieutenant governor, Kleefisch, who is backed by the state’s last Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose son is helping run her campaign. To some degree, the primary will be a test of the viability of the Walker machine versus an anti-establishment approach.

Kleefisch recently announced a $3.3 million fundraising haul (Tony Evers announced $10 million). Getting out of the gate early has given her major momentum in the endorsement front. She has already racked up public safety endorsements, earning endorsements from the majority of Wisconsin’s sheriffs and major law enforcement associations.

The elephant in the room when it comes to endorsements, though, is Trump: What would he do? His pushing of Sean Duffy wouldn’t seem to bode well for Kleefisch on that front, but it’s also possible the former president would just sit the primary out.

Kleefisch’s association with Walker might help her in the primary but could be a hurdle in a general election where she will need to win back independents Walker lost in his last governor’s race; on the other hand, some of those independents may be so angry at Evers (and by association Biden) that Walker is looking better to them in retrospect. So far, Kleefisch has seemed to be running a campaign out of Walker’s playbook, focusing on issues that are catnip to the Republican base like CRT. Nicholson has also focused on that issue, holding events relating to it throughout the state.

There’s another wild card in this all, and he could divide the outsider vote. Jonathan Wichmann.

Wichmann has developed diehard support through patriot and other conservative groups in the state, running almost entirely outside the county party apparatus, although it’s unclear how broad it will prove at election time. But his support is intense. It’s possible that Wichmann and Nicholson could divide some of the anti-establishment vote, boosting Kleefisch, even if the percentage he wins was relatively small.

Nicholson’s entrance into the race is certainly going to make it more interesting.

His website gives this bio for Kevin Nicholson:

“Kevin Nicholson is a husband, father of three, businessman, and highly decorated combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps (Iraq: 2007; Afghanistan: 2008-2009). Born and raised in Wisconsin, he and his family now live in Delafield.

Kevin ran for the U.S. Senate for the same reason he joined the Marine Corps while America was at war: because America is worth fighting for. Our nation’s financial, economic, and national security problems are large –and growing exponentially. Kevin and his family believe conservatives with real-world experience need to step up and provide solutions.

The sum total of his experiences in the Marine Corps, in combat, and in business have made Kevin a strong advocate for common sense, conservative principles.”

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(The Center Square) – One of the biggest critics of Wisconsin’s election administrator says no one should be threatening her and says threats don’t help fix election integrity issues.

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, on Tuesday offered her thoughts after the Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed elections administrator Meagan Wolfe is receiving extra security protection.

"Threatening Administrator Meagan Wolfe, or any election official, is unacceptable and counterproductive. Venting frustrations on individuals like Wolfe, clerks, or poll workers is not only illegal but also harmful to rebuilding trust in our elections,” Brandtjen said. “Threats only undermine our republic and empower the courts and media. It's essential to address any concerns about election processes through legal channels. Threats have no place in our democracy.”

Brandtjen has been one of Wisconsin’s loudest critics of Wolfe. She led hearings as far back as 2021 into Wolfe’s role in the 2020 election. Brandtjen also led the push to get Wolfe removed from the Elections Commission.

“Wolfe’s term has indeed expired, and according to Wisconsin Statutes 15.61(1)(b)1, she should be removed, but Republicans are too worried about the press or too compromised to follow existing law.” Brandtjen said.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday clarified that Wolfe is receiving extra security but refused to offer any details.

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission has had productive conversations about safety and security with state leadership, including the governor’s office, which is tasked with approving security measures for state government officials,” WEC spokesperson Riley Vetterkind said in a statement. “Those conversations have resulted in additional security measures being approved for Administrator Wolfe and the WEC when the need arises.”

Brandtjen on Tuesday blamed Wisconsin Republicans, and once again blamed Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, for Wolfe’s continued time on the Elections Commission.

“It's disappointing that Sen. Dan Knodl and Rep. Scott Krug, chairs of the election committees, have not exercised their investigative and subpoena powers. This inaction has allowed the neglect of essential laws, such as providing ballots to individuals declared incompetent, lack of checks in military ballot requests, an insecure online system, and improper guidance on voting for homeless individuals without proper documentation,” she said. “The Legislature, particularly Speaker Vos' control, is responsible for the frustration caused by election irregularities due to their inaction.”

Wisconsin’s local election managers have reported an uptick in threats and angry rhetoric since the 2020 election, and some local election offices have taken extra precautions. But there haven’t been any cases in Wisconsin where someone has acted on an election threat.

Wisconsin’s Largest Business Group Sues Over Evers’ 400-year School Funding Veto

(The Center Square) – There is now a legal challenge to Gov. Tony Evers’ 400-year school funding veto.

The WMC Litigation Center on Monday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up their challenge to the governor’s summer veto that increased per-pupil funding for the next four centuries.

“At issue is Gov. Evers’ use of the so-called ‘Vanna White’ or ‘pick-a-letter’ veto,” the group said in a statement. “The governor creatively eliminated specific numbers in a portion of the budget bill that was meant to increase the property tax levy limit for school districts in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years. By striking individual digits, the levy limit would instead be increased from the years 2023 to 2425 – or four centuries into the future.”

The WMC Litigation Center is an affiliate of Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce (WMC), the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association.

Litigation Center Executive Director Scott Rosenow said while Wisconsin’s governor has an incredibly powerful veto pen, there are limits.

“No Wisconsin governor has the authority to strike individual letters or digits to form a new word or number, except when reducing appropriations,” Rosenow said. “This action is not only unconstitutional on its face, but it is undemocratic because this specific partial veto allows school districts to raise property taxes for the next 400 years without voter approval.”

Wisconsin lawmakers and voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1990 that put limits on the governor’s veto power.

Rosenow and the WMC Litigation Center say the governor’s veto goes beyond those limits.

The legal challenge also raises the constitutional issue that all state spending has to originate with, and be approved by, the legislature.

“In no uncertain terms, 402 years is not less than or part of the two-year duration approved by the Legislature – it is far more,” concluded Rosenow. “The governor overstepped his authority with this partial veto, at the expense of taxpayers, and we believe oversight by the Court is necessary.”

The WMC Litigation Center is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case as quickly as possible.

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Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a lawyer and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

Trump has attempted to delay the start of the New York state trial several times, including three longshot tactics judges rejected this week.

What charges does Trump face in the New York hush money case?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels are expected to testify.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness in the trial. Daniels has said she expects to testify.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Bragg's predecessor, did not bring the case to trial.

What happens on Monday?

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Donald Trump are expected to be present when the trial before Judge Juan Merchan gets started Monday. The first step will be picking a jury, a process that could take a week or more depending on how things progress. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will select 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of potentially hundreds of people. Each juror will answer 42 questions designed to determine if they can be impartial in the high-profile trial of a polarizing former president. The jurors will remain anonymous because of security concerns.

Once a jury is seated, it's on to opening statements where prosecutors and defense attorneys will get to address the jury about what they plan to show during the trial.

What is Trump's defense to the charges?

Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and has accused Bragg of bringing a politically motivated case involving conduct in 2016 during a presidential election year as Trump faces incumbent Joe Biden in a rematch of the 2020 election.

Trump has spoken out against the judge, the district attorney and other involved in the case repeatedly. Trump's comments prompted a gag order from the judge who said Trump can't talk publicly about certain people involved in the case and their families.

"The White House Thugs should not be allowed to have these dangerous and unfair Biden Trials during my campaign for President. All of them, civil and criminal, could have been brought more than three years ago. It is an illegal attack on a Political Opponent. It is Communism at its worst, and Election Interference at its Best. No such thing has ever happened in our Country before," Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social this week. "On Monday I will be forced to sit, GAGGED, before a HIGHLY CONFLICTED & CORRUPT JUDGE, whose hatred for me has no bounds. All of these New York and D.C. 'Judges' and Prosecutors have the same MINDSET. Nobody but this Soros Prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, wanted to take this ridiculous case. All legal scholars say it is a sham. BIDEN'S DOJ IS RUNNING THE CASE. Just think of it, these animals want to put the former President of the United States (who got more votes than any sitting President!), & the PARTY'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, IN JAIL, for doing absolutely nothing wrong. It is a RUSH TO THE FINISH. SO UNFAIR!"

Will Trump take the stand?

That's not clear yet. Trump said last month that he'd be willing to testify at trial if needed.

Could Trump go to jail?

It's too earlier to tell what will happen if Trump is convicted. Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump's age and lack of any prior criminal convictions could work in his favor at sentencing if he's convicted. His attacks on the judge could have the opposite effect at sentencing. Before sentencing, the judge would look at sentencing guidelines, recommendations from prosecutors and any other pre-sentence reports.

In late March, Trump said that he wasn't worried about a conviction when asked if he thought a conviction could hurt his chances of returning to the White House.

"It could also make me more popular because the people know it's a scam," he said. "It's a Biden trial, there is no trial, there's a Biden trial."

Whatever happens during the trial, Trump will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service.

Even if convicted and sentenced to jail, Trump could continue his campaign to re-take the White House.

"The Constitution does not bar felons from serving as President," said Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Trump could not pardon himself from any state charges, Hasen said.

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s next supreme court race could be even more contentious and even more expensive than the last one.

Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday surprised the state when she announced she will not run for re-election next year.

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run. But it's just time to pass the torch, bring fresh perspectives to the court," Walsh Bradley said in a statement.

She is one of Wisconsin’s longest serving justices, serving her third 10-year term on the court.

“In the 177-year history of the court, only four justices have served longer than my length of service,” she wrote.

Walsh Bradley’s decision means the next election will be open.

Former Republican attorney general, and current Waukesha County judge, Brad Schimel has already jumped into the race. There aren’t any declared Democrats yet.

Schimel on Thursday said Walsh Bradley’s decision isn’t changing anything for him.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against this Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s last race for the supreme court, in April of 2023, set records for spending. The race between Justice Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly cost more than $56 million. That makes the 2023 Wisconsin race the most expensive judicial race in American history. Many court observers and politicos in Wisconsin say the 2025 race could be just as expensive, or even more expensive.

Protasiewicz’s victory flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

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